Vernon tennis phenom Leena Bennetto receives scholarship from sport legend Billie Jean King

Awarded by sport legend

A young Vernon tennis phenom met the sport's royalty at the U.S. Open when she received a $10,000 scholarship from none other than tennis legend Billie Jean King.

Leena Bennetto, 18, was one of two recipients of the Novo Nordisk Donnelly Scholarship, administered by the USTA Foundation.

King, winner of 39 grand slam titles during her career, presented the awards at the U.S. Open tournament in New York.

Ivy Wilson of Jenks, Okla., was the other recipient.

"Ivy and Leena are both bright young leaders who are committed to being champions in life," said King.

Bennetto was recruited by Princeton University, where she is playing for its tennis team this fall. She grew up in Vernon, attending Vernon Secondary School, and trained at Predator Ridge.

As the top-ranked junior in British Columbia and No. 9 in Canada's under-18 ranks, Bennetto has represented Canada at the World Junior Championships and won several ITF junior titles. She is a full-time player in the Tennis Canada National Junior Program, and has won the Canadian Junior Nationals Sportsmanship Award three times.

"I am so impressed with their maturity, perseverance, and dedication to overcoming challenges to excel in both academics and tennis," said Dan Faber, executive director of the USTA Foundation.

The scholarship is named in honour of Tracey Donnelly Maltby and Diane Donnelly Stone, who along with their father, Bud Donnelly, all played Division I collegiate tennis while living with the challenges of Type 1 diabetes.

Bennetto is also a Type 1 diabetic, but hasn't let that slow her education or her athletics.

She has been a member of the Tennis Canada national team since 2014 and ranked No. 1 in British Columbia in U14, U16, and U18 competition. She's currently ranked No. 9 in Canada among U18s.

She has been ranked as high as No. 211 in the ITF World Juniors.

Her father, Murray, a local realtor, said he's understandably proud of his daughter.

"It doesn't get any bigger than Billie Jean King," he said ... "and to receive the award at the U.S. Open."

Murray flew to New York to be there as Leena received the honour.

"Billie Jean King has been a big advocate for equality and women's sports. It was a big honour."

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